According to a report from the Daily Beast on Tuesday, Facebook contributed over $120,000 to the American Conservative Union’s annual gathering. The report states that half of the contribution was cash, and the other half was in-kind support for conference operations.
Facebook will also participate in the event, with a space for conference guests to film Facebook live videos, and seminars to train people on “best practices” for using their social media platforms.
“We are glad Facebook agreed to be at CPAC and to acknowledge the importance of conservatives to their company, and we continue to work with them on issues important to conservatives,” Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told the Daily Beast.
According to Facebook, the company participates in events across the political spectrum, which they did over the summer, appearing at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. They have also participated in the CPAC in the past.
Last year however, the social media giant clashed with CPAC organizers, after it was revealed that Facebook moderators were blocking pro-conservative news from appearing in their trending topics.
After the news broke, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg reached out to prominent Republican groups to set up a meeting over reports of an anti-conservative-media bias within the popular social media platform. ACU, the funders of CPAC, refused Zuckerberg’s invitation.
“Facebook has a history of agitating against conservatives and conservative policies, especially when it comes to ACU’s own conference, CPAC,” Schlapp wrote at the time.
Schlapp also accused the platform of suppressing news about CPAC specifically, and rejected ACU’s overtures for Facebook to play a meaningful role at CPAC.
“Facebook has harmed its credibility with conservatives,” according to the statement, “but if they want to mend the relationship, we’re happy to sit down with their experts about how they can better strike a balance between sterile algorithms choosing news content and when a human curator decides to put a finger on the scale. If Facebook wants the benefit of the doubt, they need to start with complete transparency on how decisions are made concerning its newsfeeds.”
Facebook, while admitting that moderators had freedom to choose trending topics, denied preventing conservatives from thriving on the network.
“In the US, there are an equal number of conservatives and liberals using our platform, and conservatives are just as engaged—if not more so,” wrote Facebook’s head of global public policy, Joel Kaplan, a self-described conservative, in a Facebook post. “Conservative groups are thriving on Facebook, with exceptionally high levels of engagement.”
Critics of CPAC were outraged over the news that the two groups have teamed up, including Coraline Ada Ehmke, a software developer who also works with tech companies to limit on-platform harassment.
“They’re betraying every immigrant, every woman, every Muslim, every person of color and every transgender employee that they have,” Ehmke told the Daily Beast. “Facebook has been touting that they got a 100 percent ranking from the Human Rights Campaign. With this, Facebook is talking out of both sides of their mouth.”
“You can’t tout diversity efforts and simultaneously work to undermine the rights of those you are trying to recruit,” she added.
Zuckerberg himself has been publicly critical of Trump, recently publishing a nearly 6,000-word manifesto in support of globalism.